August 7, 2020

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe First Book of Kings is the source of the first reading for Mass this weekend. The two Books of Kings highlight the kings of the united kingdom of Israel, Saul, David and Solomon. But neither book ultimately is a political history. Both are religious works, written to call the people to be loyal to God.

Thus, along with the kings, and often more emphatically and extensively than the kings, these books mention prophets, who spoke for God.

For example, this weekend’s reading centers on the prophet Elijah. He tries to hear God, believing that God will speak to him. But he fails to hear God in phenomena in which he expects him to speak: raging storms and violent upheavals.

It is only in a tiny whispering sound that Elijah hears the voice of God.

Several lessons are in this reading. First, God communicates with humanity in ways that they can perceive.

Second, in communicating with humans, God does not always meet their expectations. Often, it is the other way. Elijah looked for God in great outbursts of nature, in a storm or in an earthquake, believing that since God is supreme over nature, he would speak through nature’s power.

As the New Testament eventually would specifically teach, God’s ways are not human ways. Not acting in human ways, God appears in places and events and forms least expected, such as in tiny whispering sounds in the middle of storms and Earth tremors.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans again this weekend furnishes the second reading.

In this reading, Paul verifies his own status as an Apostle and his own truthfulness. He identifies himself, presenting his credentials, so to speak. He confronts imposters. This passage makes clear the fact that some disputed Paul, questioning his claim to be as an Apostle.

He also mourns that many of his kin do not accept God or him. Despite the fact that some walked away from the Gospel, however, Paul insists that he will remain true to his calling as a Christian and as an Apostle. He urged the Romans also to be faithful.

For its last reading, the Church turns to St. Matthew’s Gospel.

In this story, the Lord literally walks across water to reach the boat from which the Apostles were fishing. St. Peter, impulsive as was his personality, leaps from the boat, attempting to meet Jesus. Indeed, Jesus had invited Peter to come forward.

As often happened, Peter’s initial exuberance gives way to uncertainty. When these feelings take hold, Peter loses his ability to walk on the water and starts to sink.

Jesus, not at all outdone by Peter’s lack of faith, pulls Peter from the water, rescuing the Apostle from death.


It is a truism to say that God’s ways are not our ways. Of course, they are not. We are limited. Our perceptions are blurred. Selfishness and fear lead us astray.

Life cannot be measured just by earthly standards. It must be measured by its totality, in other words, with attention given the fact of eternity.

Jesus is the Son of God. He walked on water. He saved Peter from drowning. He is the source of life. He is the only security. He alone gives eternal life.

The greatest practical lesson to learn from these readings is that in fact we are only human. Our outlook is not necessarily precise. Our wishes are not always pure. We may love the Lord and we may attempt to follow the Lord, but at times we try to find happiness by relying upon ourselves. When we try to walk on water, without Jesus, we sink.

First of all, we must humbly realize who and what we are. †

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